Kilkenny 2-22 Tipperary 0-23
Kilkenny have won a record-equalling fourth successive All-Ireland hurling championship title with a thrilling victory over Tipperary in a marvellous decider at Croke Park.
Liam Sheedy’s side came so close to ending the reign of arguably the greatest team of all time, but in the end, the Cats walked off with the cream once again.
Late goals from Henry Shefflin and substitute Martin Comerford finally killed off the heroic efforts of the Munster men in front of a crowd of 82,106 entrhralled spectators.
This was one of the genuine classics, packed full of skill and endeavour, not to mention the many twists that made it so intriguing.
Eoin Kelly’s 13 points were not enough to send the Liam McCarthy Cup on a trip to Munster. Instead it was a 1-8 tally from Henry Shefflin that proved decisive in ensuring that the prized silver remains the property of the people of Kilkenny.
Tipperary eased ahead with a couple of Eoin Kelly frees and a superb Lar Corbett effort, but the champions, with Tommy Walsh in superb form at wing back, responded with a vengeance.
They fired over five points in the space of four minutes, with Eddie Brennan hitting a couple of excellent efforts, and Eoin Larkin also on target.
Corbett floated over a couple of superb scores as the play flowed from end to end, and the sides were level seven times in the first half.
Kelly’s eighth point eased Tipp back in front seven minutes before the break, but the champions increased the tempo, hitting five of the last six scores of the half, Shefflin bringing his tally to five and Eddie Brennan rifling over another beauty to take a 0-13 to 0-11 lead into the interval.
They could have been further ahead had Richie Hogan not rushed his shot when presented with a golden goal opportunity just before Cork referee Diarmuid Kirwan had sounded the half-time whistle.
Kilkenny’s lead was preserved in spectacular fashion by goalkeeper PJ Ryan two minutes into the second half, who pulled off a stunning save from Seamus Callinan after Pat Kerwick had made ground on the right to craft the opening.
But Callinan quickly made amends by capitalising some uncharacteristically sloppy Kilkenny defending to hit the two points that brought the sides level, before Shane McGrath regained the lead for Tipp.
The Munster men were now dominant, and Ryan had to stretch again to save from Kelly after Corbett had distinctively set up a golden goal chance.
Shefflin and Richie Hogan kept a hard-pressed Kilkenny in touch with points on the breakaway, and despite losing substitute Benny Dunne to a straight red card for a wild swipe at Walsh on 53 minutes, Tipp continued to play with unrelenting fervour.
Kelly, Noel McGrath and Callinan arrowed over another volley of scores to maintain a two-point cushion, but it all went wrong for a courageous Tipp side when Kilkenny banged in two goals in the space of a minute.
First Shefflin drilled a penalty to the net after Power was fouled, and then substitute Martin Comerford broke clear to drill home a second. Croke Park erupted.
And Eoin Larkin finished the job off with a couple of late points to set the scene for a Croke Park pitch invasion which forced a departure from the planned on-pitch trophy presentation.
Kilkenny: PJ Ryan, M Kavanagh, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell (0-1), T Walsh (0-1), B Hogan, J Tennyson, D Lyng (0-1), M Rice, R Hogan (0-2), H Shefflin (1-8, 1-0 pen, 0-7f), E Larkin (0-3), E Brennan (0-3), R Power (0-1), A Fogarty.
Subs: TJ Reid (0-1) for Fogarty (49), M Fennelly (0-1) for Lyng (51),M Comerford (1-0) for Hogan (55)
Tipperary: B Cummins, P Stapleton, P Maher, P Curran, D Fanning, C O'Mahony, B Maher, J Woodlock, S McGrath (0-1), P Kerwick, S Callinan (0-3), J O'Brien, N McGrath (0-2), E Kelly (0-13, 7f, 3 ’65), L Corbett (0-4).
Subs: B Dunne for O’Brien (46), W Ryan for Kerwick (65), M Webster for Woodlock (68)
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).